McGregor Recommends: Craigellachie 13
McGregor Recommends is a blog series of single malt whisky recommendations from James McGregor. James has owned The Royal McGregor for more than 15 years. He has a passion for single malt whisky and sharing his favourite malts with customers.
James has hosted whisky tastings at The Royal McGregor as well as various venues around Edinburgh for several years.
It's May, so we are continuing our monthly series where I review and recommend the best single malt whiskies on the market.
This month, we're heading to Speyside and visiting Craigellachie. The distillery’s single malts were first released in 2014, and their malts are known for their ‘meaty’ character. Sweet, spicy and slightly smoky is what they’re all about.
The distillery was built in 1891 in Banffshire at the very heart of Speyside, between Rothes and Dufftown.
Here the distillery is in close proximity to the blissful confluence of rivers Spey and Fiddich. From the whisky distillery, perched high on the rock of Craigellachie, one can gaze over the village and namesake, and the quaint John Telford - designed bridge, which crosses over the river Spey.
Co-founded by Alexander Edward of Aultmore fame, and Peter Mackie (of Lagavulin fame) from ‘White Horse’, the buildings were designed by the reputable Speyside architect, Charles Doig. Since 1998, John Dewar & Sons Ltd have owned the niche distillery, and it’s their rare bottlings that make them an interesting and unique choice for malt hunters looking for something a wee bit different.
Since 2004, Craigellachie have released single malts that have been produced as part of the "Last Great Malts" range, with age statements of 13, 17, 19 & 23 years old. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on any of these bottlings, yer in for a treat.
Need the finer details on the Craigellachie 13? Let’s get tasting!
Nose: Big tropical-fruit aromas at first – mango and pineapple – followed by sweet and savoury notes of ham glazed with Demerara sugar and a whiff of barbecue smoke.
Palate: More sweet fruit, tempered by savoury smokiness. Punchy and full-flavoured, with the meaty smoke balancing well with the refreshing tropical fruit. Mouth-filling texture; makes a statement!
Finish: The smoked-meat notes gently fade, along with a hint of spent match.
Why you should try it!
Because it’s anything but a typical Speyside malt.
Craigellachie introduces sulphur into its malts, and the practise has become a somewhat emotive issue in recent years. There are two ways in which you can get sulphur taste notes into malts.
One is through the burning of sulphur candles in casks to stop bacterial infection. Although this was once standard in Jerez with the rise of bespoke casks for the whisky industry the practice has now been outlawed.
The second form of sulphur comes from barley and is naturally produced during the whisky-making process. If you cut down the amount of copper available to spirit vapour the higher the sulphur levels in the new make will be. But this sulphur disappears in time. It acts as a marker; an indication that once its cloak has been lifted a spirit will emerge either as meaty (Cragganmore, Mortlach, Benrinnes) or fragrant (Glenkinchie, Speyburn, Balblair, AnCnoc, and Craigellachie).
In other words, sulphur can be desirable and make a whisky super unique. Try it for yourself with this 13-year-old from Craigellachie!